Testimony of Annette Smith, Vermonters for a Clean Environment S. 52
Vermont Senate Finance Committee
Feb. 7, 2016
My name is Annette Smith. I am Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Thank you Madam Chair and the Committee for inviting my testimony today. For the last two years I have worked with Vermonters involved with solar projects to assist them in participating in the process at the Public Service Board. For nearly eight years I have worked with Vermonters involved with wind projects and have assisted towns and neighbors with their participation at the PSB. I have also worked with Vermonters on biomass plant applications to the PSB.
Senators Lyons, MacDonald, and Sirotkin may recall I asked to testify to this committee last year, after the Attorney General’s investigation — following up on a complaint that I was engaged in the unlicensed practice of law by assisting Vermonters in participation at the PSB — was closed. The summary of my testimony was that the AG’s investigation proved that the PSB is a legal process and the public gives up rights when they attempt to participate without a lawyer, and the public needs a lawyer.
The day after my testimony, the PSB Working Group was added to S.230, which became S.260 and enacted as Act 174. I was invited to present to the Act 174 Working Group and offered substantive input on problems and solutions.1 S.52 proposes amendments related to PSB proceedings based on the recommendations of the Working Group. The purpose of S.52 relates to the public’s access to PSB proceedings.
Before I comment on the specifics in S. 52, I would like to offer some new perspective on the challenges that Vermonters who are neighbors of proposed renewable energy projects face when confronted with a project in their community. These challenges extend to towns and regions, not just neighbors.
My thinking on this topic has evolved in the last year, and especially in recent days because of a recent PSB Order. I have realized that the problems the Vermont public experiences with the PSB process go beyond the specifics of what happens during PSB proceedings, and are much more extensive due to the statutes put in place by this legislature, the way the PSB is interpreting those statutes, and the PSB’s ability to make a finding of “the public good”, which is not defined.